Speakers

Kevin Triplett
Kevin Triplett

Kevin Triplett was appointed in April 2015 to the cabinet of Governor Bill Haslam as Commissioner of Tourist Development. Tourist Development is Tennessee’s No. 2 industry, bringing $18.4 billion in economic impact to the state, and more than $1.6 billion in state and local sales tax revenue. Prior to joining Gov. Haslam’s team, Triplett served Bristol Motor Speedway as vice-president of public affairs, overseeing government and community relations, special initiatives such as tourism and community relationships, and development.

Before joining BMS in January 2005, Triplett worked for NASCAR, the sport’s sanctioning body from March 1994 until June 2003, beginning in the public relations department, overseeing several of NASCAR’s 50th Anniversary projects. He ended his tenure with NASCAR as managing director of business operations. The East Tennessee State University graduate previously managed media and public relations for several NASCAR sponsors, teams and drivers, including Dale Earnhardt. Triplett and his wife Jill have two children – Lucas William and Sarah Grace.

Neal McCoy
Neal McCoy

Neal McCoy has served as the Executive Director of the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau since 2010 where he manages a staff of 13 and a $4-million dollar budget to promote Tupelo in the ever-changing travel and tourism market. A graduate of the University of Mississippi in 1998, Neal began his career with the Tupelo Parks & Recreation Department as a Sports Director before moving to the Jackson, MS Metro Area. He served as the Athletics Director for the City of Jackson Parks & Recreation Department before accepting the position as Assistant Director of the Ridgeland Recreation & Parks Department. Neal returned to Tupelo in 2004 as the Director of Sports Development for the Tupelo CVB where he combined his passions for sports and promoting his hometown. Neal was then promoted to Deputy Director of the Tupelo CVB in 2009 and managed the bureau’s community relations and budget. Neal has served his industry on the boards of the Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA), the Southeast Tourism Society (STS), MS Hills National Heritage Area, BancorpSouth Arena Commission and the Natchez Trace Compact. In 2009 he was awarded the Rising Star Award from STS. Under his leadership, the Tupelo CVB was awarded CVB of the Year by STS and twice by MTA. Neal and his wife Holly have three children: Mac, South and Carter Cate. He enjoys any outdoor activities with his family and following Ole Miss Athletics.

Rene Lance
Rene Lance

Rene Lance is the Executive Director of South Central TN Tourism Association. She is from Nashville and currently lives in Lewisburg with her husband of 24 years and two active teenagers. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications at the University of Tennessee. She is a Certified Tennessee Travel Professional and a Travel Marketing Professional. Rene has over 20 years of marketing experience where she has worked for Capitol Records, White Thompson Advertising Agency and spent the past 10 years with SCTTA. Rene is a graduate from Gattis Leadership and sits on several Associations & Tourism boards.

Peggy Owen
Peggy Owen
Amy Bardwell
Amy Bardwell

Amy M. Bardwell grew up in the college town of Oxford, MS and attended the University of Mississippi. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with an emphasis in Hospitality Management, followed by her Master of Science in Food and Nutrition Services. During this time, Amy also worked for the food management company ARAMARK as the catering manager on the university’s main campus. Amy now attends Auburn University where she is pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Her main research concentration is on locally sourced food, restaurants, and rural tourism. Intending to graduate in August 2017, Amy is currently working towards completing her dissertation focusing on how rural tourist destinations in the southeastern United States attract and maintain tourists as well as what type of tourists are visiting these destinations. She is particularly excited about better understanding the relationship between the tourist and the destination.

Greg Fuson
Greg Fuson
Ramay Winchester
Ramay Winchester

Ramay Woody Winchester has served as director for Retire Tennessee Program for the last 11 years. She started the program under the Department of Economic & Community Development and was transferred to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development July 2015. Because a retiree visits a location three to five times before making the decision to relocate, the Retire Tennessee program naturally goes hand-in-hand with tourism. Tennessee has become one of the top choices for retirement locations and Tennessee Tourism markets to attract retirees to choose Tennessee as their home. Tennessee is only one of four states in the U.S. that has retiree recruitment as a formal program of work. In addition to the program director for Retire Tennessee, Ramay manages the Adventure Tourism Initiative. She started her state career in 1998 with the Department of Tourist Development as regional marketing manager, responsible for tourism public relations. A past Chamber of Commerce executive, she brings years of chamber and tourism development experience to the Department. Ramay is a past chair and current board member of the American Association for Retirement Communities.

Brad Collette
Brad Collette

Brad Collett is an Associate Professor in the Department Plant Sciences with a faculty appointment to the UT School of Landscape Architecture. His teaching and research interests include landscape performance, specifically watershed stewardship through operative landscapes and low impact planning, design and development. He has published two books: Low Impact Development: Opportunities for the PlanET Region, and HydroLIT: Southeast Tennessee Water Quality Improvement Playbook, and was a visiting professor at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia’s Department of Landscape Architecture in spring of 2016 as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar. In partnership with the College of Architecture and Design’s Governor’s Chair for Energy and Urbanism, he is Director of The Tennessee River Project, a multi-year, watershed-based teaching, research, and outreach initiative that launched in Fall 2016.

Julie Graham
Julie Graham

Julie Graham is the Executive Director for the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council, a 16 County Regional agency and serves the Admin for the Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide. Her previous professional experience includes 6 years as a Chamber CEO and 3 years as the Executive Director for a regional non-profit that was charged with implementing the “playbook” produced from a multi-year regional collaborative project funded by a federal sustainability grant. Ms. Graham has served on numerous boards including the Community Design Center and East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. An experienced speaker and grant writer, Julie has assisted metro and rural communities with projects that build on livability principles while preserving the natural, cultural, and historic place based assets. During her career, she has served as adjunct faculty at several universities and provided student intern experiences for a certificate to Master level students. A passionate environmental steward, she annually organizes large community events designed to improve water quality in the TVA watershed and to connect people with these public lands. Mrs. Graham has a BS in Allied Health Sciences from the University of Connecticut, and a Masters of Science in Human and Industrial Relations from Marshall University.

Jai Templeton
Jai Templeton

Jai Templeton was appointed by Governor Bill Haslam and sworn in as Tennessee’s 37th Commissioner of Agriculture in May 2016. Prior to joining the department as Deputy Commissioner in June 2011, he served as mayor of McNairy County, leading that county’s successful efforts to reduce debt and increase fund balances without raising taxes during the economic recession. He is a sixth generation farmer producing grain, cotton, hay, timber, and cattle in McNairy and Hardin Counties.

As county mayor, Templeton also served on the UT Martin-McNairy County Center Advisory Board, the West Tennessee Railroad Authority, the West Tennessee River Basin Authority, the Southwest Tennessee Development District Executive Board and the Southwest Tennessee Human Resources Agency Board. He is a former county commissioner and former president of the McNairy County Chamber of Commerce, where he helped form the McNairy Regional Alliance to focus on economic development in the area.

From 1995 to 2003, he served as a field representative for former U.S. Representative Ed Bryant, covering the rural portion of Tennessee’s Seventh Congressional District. He also served as a delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention. He has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and he is a graduate of the Nashville Auction School and UTM WestStar, Leadership McNairy County and AgStar professional development programs. He is also a graduate of the UT Certified Public Administrator program and Tennessee Government Executive Institute.

He is a member of the Agricenter International Board of Directors, the McNairy-Chester County Cattlemen’s Association, the McNairy County Forestry Landowner’s Association, the Tennessee Farm Bureau, the Stantonville Community Club, Masonic Lodge #338, O.E.S. Chapter #330, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Memphis Ag Club, Mid-South and First Farmer’s Cooperative and a former board member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association. Jai is a member of the First Baptist Church of Adamsville where he has taught Sunday School and served on the Finance Committee. He is a member of Gideon’s International and a former member of the Shiloh Baptist Association Executive Committee. He and his wife, Allison, reside on the family farm in Stantonville, Tenn. They have three children Canon and Eliza Smith, Mycaela Rhodes, and husband, Alex.

Bill Sanderson
Bill Sanderson

State Representative Bill Sanderson is a lifelong resident of Kenton, TN. After graduating from Kenton High School in 1977 he attended Lambuth University receiving a degree in Business Administration in 1981. Deciding North West Tennessee was the place for him, Bill decided to put his education to work and help out at the family business, C.W. Sanderson’s furniture and appliance store in Kenton. After spending a career in retail, Bill decided to set his sights on serving NW TN in Nashville. Bill was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2010 as State Representative for Obion, Lake, and Dyer Counties.

Learning quickly the best way to represent his district was to speak up every chance he received, the mild manner Sanderson soon got the reputation for being a serious legislator who can get things done. Soon after he was elected, he was appointed as State Government Subcommittee chairman and has been awarded “legislator of the year” from organizations throughout the state. He also is a member of the House Transportation Committee and has been elected by the members of the General Assembly to sit on the Joint Committee on Fiscal Review where he is charged with overseeing the state’s fiscal policy. Despite his busy schedule, Bill still finds enough time to tend to his 18-acre vineyard and winery, running marathons, and spending time with his lovely wife, Marjie. Bill has three grown children, one grandchild, and is a member of Kenton United Methodist Church.

John Butler
John Butler

Before taking over as President of Agricenter International on July 1, 2016, John Butler, a fifth generation farmer, was owner/operator of Jones Creek Farms for 20 years. Jones Creek Farms is a diversified row crop and cattle operation that has grown to several thousand acres, consisting of cotton, soybeans, feed grains, and a commercial cow/calf herd. Butler graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science. He worked for Cargill, Inc. for a number of years. In his various management roles at Cargill, John had permanent assignments all over the United States dealing with grain origination, processing, transportation, distribution, and customer service.

John is passionate about the importance of U.S. agriculture and its role in providing the world with nutritious and economical products. He has spent countless hours traveling all over the U.S. and the world telling the story of American agriculture. He has served on several commodity associations and has been very active in numerous professional organizations such as the American and Tennessee Farm Bureaus, the United Soybean Board, the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, the Tennessee Soybean Association, and the Center for Food Integrity, to name a few.

Rose Ann Donnell
Rose Ann Donnell

Rose Ann Donnell is a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a farmer’s mother. She lives in Spring Creek in Madison County TN on a Century Farm eight miles from her families McCallum century old farm. She and her husband, Billy attended UTM and graduated from UTK to return home and continue farming Donnell family land settled in 1835.  They raise cotton, corn, soybeans, hay, Angus cattle, and pumpkins. After a career in commercial and residential interior design, Rose Ann was a full time mother and part time instructor at Jackson State Community College. During this time she was co-chairman of the competitive exhibit building in the West TN State Fair for over 40 years. Rose Ann was active in the TN Fair Association on district and state levels serving as TN Fair Association VP and 2005 State Fair President visiting 52 County fairs.  In 2010 Rose Ann received the Sterling Award for one of the most influential women in West Tennessee. She and husband Billy were awarded TN Outstanding Young Farmer Award and runner-up in the National Young Farmer & Rancher contest. The Donnell Family was also selected as TN Angus Family of the year.  Rose Ann is a member of the TN Agritourism Association where she has served on the Board of Directors.

After caring for their parents she decided to restore the 100 year old mule barn where their sons had raised Angus show cattle. Her involvement with Madison County and TN Young Farmers and Homemakers and National Young Farmer & Rancher Leadership conferences had made a deep impression. She remembered the words, “If you don’t tell them about Agriculture who will?” Donnell Century Farm Adventure educational field trips were created with that old barn, some stuffed hens and borrowed farm animals. Today she and their son, Andrew open their farm for visits in fall and spring so children, teachers, and adults can learn all the food at the grocery is grown on a farm. It is her mission for the venue to serve as agriculture’s ambassador to folks who think farming is not essential because all the food they need comes from the grocery.   Rose Ann has been a choir member, and Sunday school teacher at Browns/Mt Carmel UMC where she is still active. She also attended West TN Emmaus Walk 8.  Rose Ann and Billy’s family includes William, Jill and grandchildren Braden and Ella Catherine & Andrew, Jessica and grandchildren Callum, Catye Beth and Connor who all live in Jackson, TN.

Mark Adams
Mark Adams

Mark Adams began his career in the music industry managing and promoting artists like Hank Williams Jr., Billy Joel, Molly Hatchet, Cheap Trick, A Flock of Seagulls, Joan Jett and KISS. He later expanded his skills to the convention industry. In Orlando, Florida, he was the General Manager for GES Exposition Services a publicly held company that produces trade shows and special events across the country. Mark also served as Director of Sales for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) in Atlanta. The organization managed the Georgia World Congress Center (3rd largest convention center in the country), the Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park and the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. In September of 2016, he accepted the position of President and CEO of the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. In addition to the CVB, the organization also runs the Chamber of Commerce, Gatlinburg Welcome Centers a Foundation and an Events division.

Leon Downey
Leon Downey

Leon Downey has served as executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism since September 1988. During a 39-year Tennessee tourism career, has also served as executive director of the Oak Ridge Convention & Visitors Bureau, tourism development manager for the Knoxville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and marketing manager for the Blount County Chamber of Commerce and Smoky Mountain Visitors Bureau. Leon is a past chairman of the Southeast Tourism Society, and a member of the AAA Auto Club Group Advisory Council. He currently serves as the chairman of the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council, as a member of the Better Business Bureau of East Tennessee’s board of directors, and as a co-chair of the Tennessee Tourism Committee. He is a veteran having served four years on active duty with the United States Army as a counter intelligence specialist. Leon received a Bachelor of Science degree in communications from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

Brenda McCroskey
Brenda McCroskey